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Screengrab: Instagram.com/@Vanessabryant

Kobe Bryant's widow, Vanessa Bryant shared her grief and heartache in an emotional statement published on Instagram.com.

The post accompanied a family portrait showing the 41-year-old Lakers legend smiling with Vanessa and their four daughters - 13-year-old Gianna "Gigi" Bryant, who died with her father in a helicopter crash on Sunday; 17-year-old Natalia, Bianka, 2, and infant Capri.

Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

"My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who've shown support and love during this horrific time," the statement read.

"Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe -- the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna -- a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri.

"There aren't enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have then in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon. I'm not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it's impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way."

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images

Vanessa's heartfelt message was posted Wednesday on Vanessa's Instagram account, which was recently made public for the first time since the crash.

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The grieving widow changed her Instagram.com profile photo to this image of Kobe and his Gianna embracing during the 2016 NBA All-Star game in Toronto.

Vanessa shared a link to the foundation she set up, the Mamba Sports Foundation, for public donations "to help support the other families affected by this tragedy.

Also killed in the crash were college baseball coach John Altobelli, 56; his wife, Keri; and their daughter Alyssa Altobelli, who played on the same basketball team with Gianna. Another young basketball player, Payton Chester, was also killed along with her mother, Sarah Chester; and Christina Maurer, a girls basketball coach at Harbor Day School, a private elementary school.

Photo by Chris Weeks/Liaison

Kobe and Vanessa, 37, met on the set of a music video when she was 16. He was already an NBA superstar when they met. He caused such a commotion when he picked her up from high school that the administration banned him from the school campus. They married when he was 22 and she was 18 in 2001.

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Their eldest daughter Natalia, pictured left, was born 2 years later. Vanessa suffered a miscarriage in 2005, and Kobe blamed himself. Vanessa never got over the shame of his arrest for raping a Colorado woman in 2003.

The Bryants were overjoyed when Gianna (right) came along a year later. Kobe and Gigi became inseparable and she shared his passion for basketball.

The Lakers organization issued a statement on Twitter.com:

"We are devastated and have been forever changed by the sudden loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. We send our love to Vanessa, the Bryant family, and to the families of the other passengers.

"Words cannot express what Kobe means to the Los Angeles Lakers, our fans, and our city. More than a basketball player, he was a beloved father, husband, and teammate. Their love and light will remain in our hearts forever."

The Lakers organization also asked the public to donate to the foundation. Kobe fans criticized the organization for soliciting funds from grieving fans.

"Why is a billion dollar foundation asking the public for monies? Why not fund it yourself?" wrote one social media user. Others opined that Kobe was worth hundreds of millions of dollars when he died. His sponsor, Nike, and the Lakers are billion dollar corporations.

The request for public donations comes at a time when NBA fans - many of whom are not millionaires - are still reeling from the news of Kobe's death.
 

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My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri. We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately. There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon. I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever. Thank you for sharing your joy, your grief and your support with us. We ask that you grant us the respect and privacy we will need to navigate this new reality. To honor our Team Mamba family, the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to help support the other families affected by this tragedy. To donate, please go to MambaOnThree.org. To further Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports, please visit MambaSportsFoundation.org. Thank you so much for lifting us up in your prayers, and for loving Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka, Capri and me. #Mamba #Mambacita #GirlsDad #DaddysGirls #Family ??

A post shared by Vanessa Bryant ? (@vanessabryant) on

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